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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2007 Nov;88(4):435-44. Epub 2007 Jul 5.

NMDA receptor blockade in the basolateral amygdala disrupts consolidation of stimulus-reward memory and extinction learning during reinstatement of cocaine-seeking in an animal model of relapse.

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Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina, 173 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


Previous research from our laboratory has implicated the basolateral amygdala (BLA) complex in the acquisition and consolidation of cue-cocaine associations, as well as extinction learning, which may regulate the long-lasting control of conditioned stimuli (CS) over drug-seeking behavior. Given the well established role of NMDA glutamate receptor activation in other forms of amygdalar-based learning, we predicted that BLA-mediated drug-cue associative learning would be NMDA receptor dependent. To test this hypothesis, male Sprague-Dawley rats self-administered i.v. cocaine (0.6 mg/kg/infusion) in the absence of explicit CS pairings (2-h sessions, 5 days), followed by a single 1-h classical conditioning (CC) session, during which they received passive infusions of cocaine discretely paired with a light+tone stimulus complex. Following additional cocaine self-administration sessions in the absence of the CS (2-h sessions, 5 days) and extinction training sessions (no cocaine or CS presentation, 2-h sessions, 7 days), the ability of the CS to reinstate cocaine-seeking on three test days was assessed. Rats received bilateral intra-BLA infusions (0.5 microl/hemisphere) of vehicle or the selective NMDA receptor antagonist, 2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (AP-5), immediately prior to the CC session (acquisition), immediately following the CC session (consolidation), or immediately following reinstatement testing (consolidation of conditioned-cued extinction learning). AP-5 administered before or after CC attenuated subsequent CS-induced reinstatement, whereas AP-5 administered immediately following the first two reinstatement tests impaired the extinction of cocaine-seeking behavior. These results suggest that NMDA receptor-mediated mechanisms within the BLA play a crucial role in the consolidation of drug-CS associations into long-term memories that, in turn, drive cocaine-seeking during relapse.

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